About This Pulled Pork on Grill Recipe
Of all the cooking methods for smokers and grills, any pulled pork on grill recipe is considered to be among the most avoided tasks by the average outdoor cook. This is mostly due to the typical standard of cooking for 8-12 hours and common grillers don’t see that as a pleasurable feat to tend to something for so long (on a grill). Hopefully, our guidance will give you a comfort level to tackle this one, if you’ve never tried it before.
And, don’t forget to make the dry rub for pork in advance, as it has its own separate recipe (link provided in this recipe), and it’s just a matter of mixing together a bunch of dry ingredients.
Pulled Pork on Grill Recipe – 4 Hours Grill Time
- 8 lb Pork Butt Roast alternate is Pork Shoulder Roast or Picnic Shoulder
- ½ cup Dry Rub for Pork click link for its recipe mixture
Optional Adds: To Convert to Wet Rub
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar alternate is white vinegar
- 1 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp honey
Preparing the Pork Roast
- Prepare the Dry Rub for Pork and set aside. If you choose to make it a wet rub (your option), go ahead and mix in those additions as well.
- Rinse the roast and pat somewhat dry. Cut deep slits (cross-sectional) deeply into the roast to make about 2-inches apart. The slits will be at least halfway deep inward and about ¾ to fully across.
- Apply the rub by hand and work it all over, including on the fatty side and inside each of the deep cuts. Try for reasonable distribution of the rub mixture.
Grilling (indirect heating)
- Place a disposable/foil drip pan in a location that will be under the meat during cooking. This is usually the center, under the top, main grill grate.Ensure the grill is preheated. Pour about 4-6 cups of hot tap water into the drip pan. Place the roast (indirect heating) on the grill grate, ensuring the water drip pan is under that grate. Roast fat side down gives a better, dark crust. Fat side up gives better flavor; it's your choice. Charcoal or heat source should not be under the roast.
- Cover the grill and work to acquire and maintain 275°-325°F, throughout the cooking process. Recover to that temperature range each time after you remove and recover the grill lid, e.g., in adding more charcoal or water. You can optionally turn the roast each time you've removed the lid but it's not necessary.
- After about 4 hours (for 8 lbs. roast), the internal temp of the roast will reach about 190°F to a little over 200°F, and it's now done. If not, let it cook longer. The lowest temp can be 170°F but, there would be some pork that won't shred easily and it will need to be chopped up. Remove the roast carefully and let it set for about 30 minutes before cutting and shredding.
Shredding, Serving, Storage
- Ensure the roast is in a deep large bowl or roasting pan. Before shredding, review if there are any large fat sections to remove. Then, begin to take it apart using the shredding claws (or sturdy forks). Tougher pieces can be cutup with a knife.
- Optionally, add your preferred barbecue sauce now or leave it up to each individual. Whether it's for sandwiches or a bulk main course, enjoy its grilled and seasoned flavor!
- For food safety, as soon as you can, put excess pork into the fridge or freezer.
History of this Recipe’s Techniques
How did you come up with this method of reducing time? Others did their own recipes at a higher temp but it wasn’t as tender as this one.
Back in the 1970s, I worked in management for my brother’s franchised unit of a very old chain called “Dog n Suds”. It had originated out of Chicago and peaked at about 500 fast food locations nationwide. It had an expanded variation of a fast food concept like a Sonic Drive-in is today. During that time, I met a gentleman in Paragould, Arkansas who used to deliver pulled pork for the barbecue sandwiches. And one day, I asked him how he made it. I was so surprised at how long it took to make and the process involved. However, he had a huge volume business and explained to me how he was able to increase his volume and rotate out his meats quicker than others. He explained that he cut the slow-cooking time down by cutting the large bulk meat sizes smaller but had determined that he couldn’t go less than 3-4 hours because the fat had to have a minimal time to break down for its tenderness, no matter the size.
So, I tried a variation of his method 40 years later as a pulled pork recipe grilled on a Weber, and it was successful. I hope you enjoy it as I have. The trickiest part is to be able to stay within that temperature range for the duration, keep the water and charcoal full, and keep it covered.
I kind of understand how to perform the roast cuts. Just to be sure, can you clarify?
Cutting the meat slits is almost like making real thick slices of bread but you don’t cut all the way down (but you do go deep). You don’t want thick pork chops; you want deep and wide slits, not true completed slices. The meat still needs a degree of enclosure for it to breakdown. So, after you’ve prepared the slits and applied the rub, you “pack” it together as a single roast.
FAQ and Tips
What is the pulled pork grilled temp supposed to be for the roast?
It starts with a good solid preheating. Every grill is different. If not using gas or electric, you’ll want to plan ahead and know when to start to preheat the grill, to save overall time. After that, there’s a nominal temperature range to maintain. The lowest is 225°F and the highest is 300°F, although the preferred highest is 275°F. When at its lowest, you normally take about 1 to 1½ hours per pound so, an 8-lb pork roast would take about 8-12 hours to cook. And this is why the predominant choice of cooking equipment used is the smoker. It’s been designed for easy refueling and long time durations for cooking at low temperatures.
But now, armed with our method, you can use your charcoal grill more readily for this recipe, assuming you can refuel it during this cooking process. Even with 4 hours for its duration, that’s still considered slow cooking but, at least it’s not anywhere near the traditional, standard time lengths.
It will require your own personal experience in managing vents and your heat source. If using charcoal, you’ll need to maintain it and never let it get below half full (usually refills might be about every 30-60 minutes). Although certain lump charcoals last better between refueling cycles.
I read some other examples suggest to set the roast out for awhile so it won’t be so cold before putting it on the grill or in a smoker. Is that true?
It all depends what the temperature of the outer part of the roast is and how long you’re leaving it out. Generally, as a best practice for some sensitive foods, like pork and chicken, you don’t want to do this. Most of us will have a pork roast we’re pulling from the freezer to use for this recipe. So, it might be tempting to leave it out to “finish” thawing but it’s safer to either thaw it out for 1-2 days n the fridge (requires planning ahead) or use the microwave in a defrost cycle. The latter might take about 20-30 minutes.
Plan ahead or use the microwave in a Defrost cycle to thaw the roast.
Can I use a lean pork roast or trim off excess fat when starting the prep work?
The preferred cuts of meat (for pulled pork) have been selected purposefully for its typical level of fat and muscle. Despite its common appearance, usually you won’t cut off any excess fat on that fatty side, unless you see an uncommonly high fat content throughout the entire roast itself. Much of it will gradually cook down and it will add to its overall flavor, the tenderness, and it aids in moisture retention. This recipe lists the top 2 popularly (and professionally) preferred cuts of pork roast for excellent pulled pork results. So, regarding using a leaner pork roast, it is said that it won’t be as tender or flavorful but it’s still sometimes a personal choice for individuals. Here’s an excellent article on the preferred cuts of meat to use for pulled pork and it discusses using a leaner pork.
What if I notice that my roast is going to be done too early, like in 3 hours?
If the roast’s internal temp is approaching the final desired internal temp too early, reduce the heat to about 200-225°F and continue to ensure the drip pan has water to help stretch out the total cooking time.